Last week I posted my review of A Gift of Wings by Stephanie Stamm https://teripolen.com/2013/07/08/a-gift-of-wings-by-stephanie-stamm/ and this week I have the pleasure of interviewing her. If you’re a NA/YA urban fantasy fan, you need to be reading this book.
Teri: I’ve read the usual urban fantasy headliners – vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters, etc., why angels?
Stephanie: Multiple reasons actually:
1. I have long been fascinated by the idea of human bodies with wings. I once created a shadow box collage called “Luna Venus” that showed the Venus figure from Bouguereau’s “The Birth of Venus” with (male) Luna moth wings. My desire to write about winged beings stems from the same impulse.
2. I love books or stories that reinvent fairy tales or ancient myths. I have a Ph.D. in Religion & Literature, and the myths I know best are the Judeo-Christian ones. I wanted to build a fantasy based on what I know, and I wanted to base it at least somewhat on actual ancient beliefs. Given my fascination with all things winged, angels seemed a good place to start.
3. I was captivated by Cassandra Clare’s first three Mortal Instruments books. I thought she did a fabulous job creating an urban fantasy world peopled with part-angelic Nephilim, and I liked her reenvisioning of what Nephilim might be. But I also had some different ideas about what a fantasy world with angels might be like, and I let those thoughts start to wander/wonder.
Teri: How did you come up with the idea for A Gift of Wings?
Stephanie: At some point during my wandering/wondering about my own angel fantasy, I picked up a little art book in a bookstore and opened it at random to a page that showed a depiction of the Ark of the Covenant. The blurb talked about Cherubim having four faces, those of a man, an eagle, a bull, and a lion. And I got this image in my head of a long-haired, four-faced man. I did a little research and discovered the link between the Cherubim and the ancient Assyrian lamassu or aladlammu, huge winged bulls with human heads, statues of which were used to guard gateways and entrances. I’d seen one of them at the Oriental Institute in Chicago a few times and had found the statue powerful and compelling. It wasn’t long before that image merged with my long-haired, four-faced man, and the character of Zeke was born. Then I had to build a story around him. I’d take walks and hints of characters or snippets of dialogue would show up. These bits and pieces gradually reached critical mass and I started actively working with them. I knew I had a story when Lucky finally appeared, giving me a main character (though she didn’t have a name yet).
Teri: What do you like best and least about Lucky and Aidan?
Stephanie: Great question! I love both characters, so how interesting—if difficult!—to decide what I like least about them.
What I like best about Lucky is her strength and her loyalty to her family. She’s experienced a lot of loss, and she faces some major challenges, but even as her life changes, her love for and connection to her grandmother and her cousin are non-negotiable. What I like least about her is—oh, this is so hard!—her tendency to blame herself for things, to take ownership of things for which she isn’t really responsible.
What I like best about Aidan is his integrity. He’s a good guy who is willing to do something he doesn’t want to do, re-enter the life he left, in order to protect a girl he just met. And when faced with the other requests and challenges that come his way, he continues to do the right thing. He’s got his own demons he’s exorcising in the process, but it takes him a while to figure out that he’s doing what he’s doing for himself as well. What I like least about him is the temper that makes him fly off the handle at Zeke (and others), saying hurtful things that he later regrets.
Teri: Why YA?
Stephanie: J.K. Rowling changed the world. The Harry Potter series re-introduced me to YA literature as an adult, and I loved it so much, I continued to read YA fantasy. Sometimes I find so-called adult literature way too depressing. YA lit is still hopeful. I like reading about characters coming of age, coming into their own, figuring out who they are, and spreading their own wings. Since I enjoy reading YA so much, that’s what I also chose to write.
Teri: What are you working on now?
Stephanie: I am currently working on the sequel to A Gift of Wings, which is called A Gift of Shadows. It begins as Lucky learns the answer to one of the unanswered questions in A Gift of Wings and relates the story of her reaction to that revelation as well as to the manifestation of her unique Gift. The familiar characters get further developed and some new ones are introduced. I’m having fun with it, even if I am struggling over some bits.
Teri: Tell us 5 random facts about yourself.
1. My favorite dessert is sticky toffee pudding.
2. I grew up on a farm, where we raised tobacco and dairy cattle.
3. I’m ten years younger than the sister who is closest to me in age.
4. The original Star Wars (yes, this dates me) was the first movie I ever saw unaccompanied by an adult. (My older sister dropped me, my cousin, and another friend off and then came back to pick us up.)
5. I spent New Year’s 2012 in Cairo, Egypt.
and can purchase A Gift of Wings at: